House with ties to Richard Wright burns

Published 12:06 am Sunday, July 1, 2007

NATCHEZ — An Adams County house that burned to the ground Saturday afternoon had ties to famous author Richard Wright, a local historian said.

The house at 431 B Cranfield Road caught fire around 3 p.m. Saturday, owner Travis Patten said.

The house was in disrepair, and no one was living in it, he said.

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“I’m glad it’s gone,” he said. “It was falling down. It was just a snake den to me. As far as a dollar value, I wouldn’t put a lot to it.”

Local historian David Dreyer said he was disappointed to hear the news.

The house was built sometime in the early decades of the 20th century from timbers of a house in which Wright lived for some time, Dreyer said.

Once the house was built, Wright’s cousin and uncle lived there, he said.

The house was occupied probably until 1989, he said.

“That’s a shame,” Dreyer said of the fire. “To me, that house spoke of the sharecropper life that Richard’s father grew up in. I don’t know if the community ever really appreciated what it was.”

Not only was the house significant to Wright’s history, but it represented a part of the community’s history, too, he said.

“That was the only sharecropper home left on Cranfield Road, even though it was a rather large home because it kept getting added on to,” he said.

According to literary scholars, Wright was one of America’s first great black writers. Born on Rucker’s Plantation near Roxie in 1908, Wright went on to address racism and class in his works. The centennial celebration of Wright’s birth will begin in February.

The trick would have been restoring and preserving the house, Dreyer said.

“At the same time, it was an eyesore,” he said. “The question was how it could be restored in a way that still preserved its humble beginnings as a sharecrop house and the background of Richard Wright.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.